5 Aug 2009 16:37

Turkey to allow South Stream surveying; to give preliminary OK for construction

MOSCOW. Aug 5 (Interfax) - The prime ministers of Russia and Turkey, Vladimir Putin and Recep Erdogan, are expected to sign a protocol on gas cooperation in Ankara on Thursday under which Turkey will give permission for reconnoitering and environmental surveying for the South Stream gas pipeline project in its waters. It will also give preliminary consent to construction of the pipeline.

The protocol will also contain the start date for construction of the pipeline, the deputy head of the government administration Yury Ushakov told journalists.

A source in the gas sector told Interfax that Russia previously requested permission to conduct those operations in Turkish waters on two occasions, but was denied each time.

The protocol will also indicate the intention of extending the contract on deliveries of Russian gas on the so-called western route (through Ukraine, Moldova, Romania and Bulgaria), which expires in 2011, Ushakov said.

The document will also mention cooperation in the Blue Stream-2 project. Gazprom built Blue Stream in partnership with Italian Eni in 2001-2002. However, a source at Gazprom told Interfax that the gas giant has not discussed the Blue Stream-2 project with Eni.

Ushakov said it was possible Putin and Erdogan would touch upon the issue of Nabucco at their talks, particularly since Turkey is a participant in that gas pipeline project.

South Stream will cross the Black Sea from Russia to Bulgaria or Romania, bypassing Ukraine. The pipeline will subsequently be extended to southern Italy and Austria. The new pipeline will have capacity to ship 63 billion cubic meters of gas a year. The undersea segment and the onshore branch in the European countries will cost about 8.6 billion euro.